This story is paired with Chapter II of Bulfinch’s Mythology. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free.
She always smiles,
skin crinkling around wet, cerulean eyes,
You will follow her onto the porch,
look out over a small,
well cared-for garden.
will creak and moan,
forth and forth.
She will serve you tea
and laughter. She will offer milk
and honey. And she will sigh,
having tamed more than one
snake in her lifetime.
“I miss my old garden sometimes.
I never knew,
until I came here
what hard work was. How you
have to tend to everything
so meticulously, just to keep a simple thing,
like an apple tree, alive. I’ll never figure out
how he did it.”
Her lips will lift
in a yellow crescent moon.
“I have an entire grove
of forbidden fruits,
I keep meaning
to put some papayas in. Papayas
are very sexy fruits. Apples are nice.
Laughter will bubble from her belly,
and then, from just as deep,
“I miss my old garden.”
The other never smiles,
except in the gold flecks of her gray eyes.
Under her arm will be a little wooden box
worn blonde around the edges. She will beckon you over
with a tilt of her head and whisper,
wanna see where all the woes were kept?”
Her face inches from yours,
“I try to keep my promise — not
to look. I even count,
to see how long I can wait.”
Jumping, slapping her hand over her mouth,
she’ll startle you.
but you can.
That wouldn’t be breaking the rules,
If you looked,
that would be okay.”
She’ll hold the box out,
shift foot to foot.
“Go ahead. Come on, come on.
Just a peek won’t hurt. I know you want to.”
You will stare at it,
uncertain and timid.
You will say,
“But what about Hope?”
Eyebrows weaved together,
she will focus on her shoelaces,
And you’ll say,
“Well, you know, in the story?
That’s what I thought was in the story. Hope
was the only one left — trapped.”
She will cover her face
and her shoulders will shake.
You will want to comfort her,
Then her head will throw back
in hysterics. She will speak
in bursts of laughter.
“Oh, that. I forgot about that.
See the hole? Persistent little bugger
wiggled his way out. Guess I can’t do anything
right if I can’t keep a little thing like Hope, huh?
Do you want to look or not?”
Curiosity getting the better of you,
you will lift the latch.
The metal hinges will squeal
in unison with her excitement.
Light will slowly pour
into the shadows of the box, and you will say,
“It’s just a box.”
And she’ll say,
They will get together on Tuesdays.
They will drink the milk and honey tea
and laugh as only women
who have lived hard can laugh.
They will feel young, or pretend to.
In stories, they will remember
their makers and their loves,
remember their old hopes and dreams,
remember the whys and the hows.
when all that is done,
they will fall silent
and breathe in
the fates they lived,
one looking out over her garden,
one playing with her box.
“It wasn’t such a bad thing.”
And the other,
“I know, dear, I know.”
Andrea Blythe graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BA in Modern Literature. Her poetry has appeared in several publications, including Chiaroscuro (ChiZine), Strange Horizons, Perigee, Linden Avenue, Z-composition, Bear Creek Haiku, and Chinquapin. In 2013 her poem “Red Riding Hood Remembers” was nominated for a Rhysling Award.